“The Wilton College” by Frances Frymeyer (IGenWeb Project), the 1872 catalog for Wilton Collegiate Institute (Ancestry.com), and History of Muscatine County, Iowa give an early history of the school. The 1902 German-English College announcement, provided by the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Home Missionary journal focus on its later history. The image (right) is from the announcement.
The catalog states that citizens of Wilton began planning for a school in 1865 and that the school actually opened in December of 1866. In 1871 the school was reorganized as Wilton Collegiate Institute. That year four students were doing college-level work, and twelve were in a college preparatory program. An additional 160 students were doing general preparatory work; the commercial and music departments drew 20 and 35 students respectively. The faculty numbered eight. By 1883 a normal department had been added.
Frymeyer says that the school had a Didactor literary society which provided regular programs of music, readings, speeches and debates. He also mentions a sleigh ride and a Thanksgiving Day party.
While the school was not initially associated with a church, each department conducted a daily religious service, and students were required to attend a weekly church service chosen by themselves and their parents.
According to Frymeyer, the school experienced shifts in ownership, mission, enrollment and name before being purchased by the German Congregation Church in 1894. At that point a tiny proseminary from Crete, Nebraska, was merged with the Wilton Academy, creating the Wilton German-English College. The announcement states that while English language students generally prepared for other colleges, German language students trained primarily for theological work. Many went on to Chicago Theological Seminary. During this period, the college had a chapter of Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor.
With many families moving west to the Dakotas, the German-English College merged with Redfield College in South Dakota in 1904. Frymeyer notes the Commercial Department under Professor J. B. Harris remained at Wilton. As late as 1909 a wedding announcement in the Leon (Iowa) Reporter stated that the groom had been hired as head of the music department at Wilton College.
Bricks and Mortar
Wilton was a village of “acht Kirchen and keinen Saloon.” The History calls it an “ideal spot for study.” The campus was eight acres, given in two parts by the Maurer family. College Building—later Butterfield Hall—was a two-story brick building with a mansard third floor. It contained recitation rooms, laboratories, a chapel, the library with reading room, and a gymnasium. Surrounded by large oak and maple trees, it was on the west side of a large ravine.
What became Norton Hall was built around 1869 on the east end of the campus. The three-story brick structure measured 40 by 70 feet. The basement contained the kitchen and dining hall; the ground floor contained faculty apartments and public rooms. One staircase led to the girls’ dormitory on the second floor; a separate stairway led to the boys’ dormitory on the third floor.
After educational work ceased on campus, Norton Hall was renovated as an apartment building. It was razed in 1973. Butterfield Hall also has been razed. The campus is now the Wilton City Park.
Team name: In 1900 the Rock Island newspaper refers to the team as Giants.
I found no reference to sports activities before1896 when the college fielded a football team. College Football Data Warehouse shows games in 1896 and 1897. The 1896 team lost to Cornell College 10-8 and to the University of Iowa 27-0. The 1897 team also lost to Iowa 22-4. Newspapers show a practice game with Iowa in 1901.
Frymeyer states “About 1900 basketball was enjoyed by the boys.” Between 1900 and 1903 newspapers show basketball games with Wilton High School, The Rock Island YMCA, Rock Island High School, Davenport High School, Augustana High School, and the University of Iowa.
College Building in 1894. Image from Home Missionary https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015075070956&view=1up&seq=568 accessed 6-14-2019
The 1896 football team. Image from Ancestry.com.http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~handcosd/history/Spink/album/redf-sch1-collhist.html.